DHS to form new WMD office

Recently it was announced that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is planning on creating a new office to focus on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) defense. The new office would be a “one-stop shop” that would create departmental unity between the DHS offices currently addressing WMD threats.

In his opening statement during a House Homeland Security Committee hearing, Rep. John Ratcliff (R-TX) noted that DHS currently handles the WMD threat through the Office of Health Affairs, the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, and elements of the Science and Technology Directorate, unlike other U.S. departments and agencies, which have centralized WMD defense programs. Rep. Ratcliff also recognized that “DHS does not have the stature and voice that it should among all of the agencies working to address all of these threats.”

However, Congress still has concerns about DHS’s ability to organize a cohesive plan to address WMD threats. Congressional documents show that in 2012, DHS did not have a “consistent representation at the table in the interagency community,” and in 2013 DHS was directed to undertake an in-depth review of its WMD programs.

DHS’s shortcomings in addressing the WMD issue have persisted, Rick “Ozzie” Nelson, Senior Associate of the Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, stated during the hearing. According to Nelson, “Not only does DHS continue to be the outlier with its fractured approach to [chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear] but it also, for unknown reasons, has resisted – or just simply failed to prioritize – efforts to correct the issue.”

For more information on the new DHS office, please follow the links below.
Congress skeptical of Homeland Security developing unified plan on WMD defense, Washington Times
Joint Subcommittee Hearing: Weapons of Mass Destruction: Bolstering DHS to Combat Persistent Threats to America, Committee on Homeland Security

The Simons Center published a special edition InterAgency Journal on the topic of weapons of
mass destruction 
in the spring of 2015. This edition of the Journal can be found here.

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